St Eustatius might be a sleepy little island off the beaten cruising track now, but in the 18th century it was the port to envy. Due to it being in the middle of the Danish, English, French, and Spanish Caribbean islands and the fact that the island claimed total neutrality and no customs or taxes, everyone brought good here to sell or trade…..regardless of how it was obtained. It is hard to believe, but at one point there were 4000 ships calling on the island a year. An interesting tid bit, over half the military supplies for the American Revolution came through this island and it was the first foreign land to recognize our independence with a salute of the fort’s cannon.
When we arrived, I marveled at the physical features of the land. On either side of the harbor (really only an open roadstead) you can see mountains with a flat valley between. The one on the right is called the Quill and is a dormant volcano. I hike to the rim and watched the clouds come over the lip and will write about it on Thursday. The last time this volcano erupted was 1600 years ago and filled in the land between it and the other mountain, making it one island. This is why it is so flat between the two and sits 100 feet above the water. Of course, over time the cliff has eroded to make a waterfront a couple hundred feet wide and the anchorage 20-40 feet deep in amazing black sand.
To me one of the most fascinating things to see on Statia are the warehouse and wharf ruins along the waterfront. These are from the time when the port was so busy. Now they lay in ruin at the water’s edge or even underwater. We snorkeled the area and on Tuesday I will tell you all about it and everything I loved.
Once you have poked around the waterfront ruins and restored buildings you can walk up the Old Slave Path to get to Upper Town. The fort, Dutch church ruins, museum, and synagogue ruins are all interesting and worth seeing, but it won’t take you much more than half a day. What we found even more enjoyable was to simply walk around and wander up and down the tiny streets. When you do, you might be amazed how the island can have such a rich and important past and be such a sleepy little island today. I love it.